SINGAPORE, June 21 — For about 13 years, Ng Kwong Seng worked for an illegal moneylending syndicate, rising through the ranks from a salary-drawing support worker to a towkay or boss entitled to profit-sharing and with loan sharks reporting to him.

While he was mostly based in China during that period, the Singaporean targeted debtors in Singapore, charging 20 per cent interest for the loans and relying on runners based here to carry out operations.

Today, Ng, now 44, was sentenced to 51 months’ jail and a fine of S$495,000 (RM1.7 million).

However, as he was unable to pay the fine, he was ordered to serve another 33 weeks behind bars in default.


He pleaded guilty earlier this month to seven charges of carrying on the business of unlicensed moneylending. Two other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Court documents showed that Ng was recruited into the syndicate sometime in mid-2006 by an ex-colleague who offered him a job as an office support staff member in China for a monthly salary of S$2,000.

Ng accepted it because he was unemployed in Singapore.


He started working for the syndicate in an apartment in Shenzhen, China. It was financed by a person identified in court documents only as “Ah Ren”.

Ah Ren was the syndicate’s tua towkay, or big boss. Reporting to him were towkays or bosses responsible for managing the operations of various ah longs, or unlicensed moneylenders.

Ng started off by helping an ah long known as “Freddi” solicit debtors from Singapore, calling up phone numbers from a database provided to him. He would work from 11am to 4pm and make about 150 calls a day.

He was promoted to an assistant ah long in January 2008 and was authorised to give out small loans when Freddi was busy.

He was then promoted to a full-fledged ah long in July that year, after Freddi left the syndicate for unknown reasons. Ng had runners based in Singapore to carry out tasks such as verifying information and collecting and issuing money to debtors.

From end-2008 to mid-2010, Ng moved his operations to Bangkok, Thailand before returning to China.

As an ah long, he was entitled to up to 20 per cent of the business profits, depending on a certain threshold of profit made.

He was then drawing between S$3,000 and S$5,000 a month, inclusive of the base salary of S$2,000.

Sometime in end-2014, he was promoted to towkay, with three ah longs reporting under him. He took no basic salary but was entitled to 60 per cent of the profits — though a portion of this would go to the three loan sharks.

He earned an average of between S$10,000 and S$12,000 a month.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Grace Chua said that Ng did not harass debtors. This was done by another person identified as “Xiao Fu”, who would arrange for runners or debtors in Singapore to conduct harassments of other debtors.

Sometime in 2019, Ah Ren, who was the big boss and financier, was arrested and Ng left the illegal moneylending business. He remained in China working as a sales manager of a liquor company until June last year.

DPP Chua said that Ng had planned to get his two daughters — aged 11 and six — to Singapore to continue with their education.

“As such, the accused decided to stop working in China and return to Singapore to settle his case,” she added.

Ng was eventually arrested on Nov 1 last year at Changi Airport.

“In the course of investigations, the accused admitted that he earned profits of around S$500,000 from his unlicensed moneylending business from 2006 to 2019,” DPP Chua said.

The money was spent on his family, personal expenses and for gambling in casinos in Macau and Hong Kong, she added.

In delivering her decision, Principal District Judge Jill Tan noted the cross-border nature of the illegal moneylending business as well as the prolonged period Ng had conducted the business as main aggravating factors.

The significant numbers of borrowers and amounts disbursed, as well as the excessive interest charged, were also aggravating.

Even though Ng “did not personally” carry out harassment of debtors, he was aware that threats were being made for debtors who had difficulties in making payments, the judge added.

However, she took into consideration in Ng’s favour the fact that he had voluntarily returned to Singapore, co-operated with investigations and pleaded guilty to his offences.

For each offence of carrying on the business of unlicensed moneylending, Ng could have been sentenced to a fine of between S$30,000 and S$300,000 and a jail term of up to four years, and also been liable to caning. — TODAY